What Kurt Vonnegut Can Tell You About Game Design

Well maybe we just disagree, but my point was that there's no simple formula for designers to follow that will make a "great game," "great novel," "great movie," etc. It's not just a matter of, for instance and in the case of video games, making sure that pointless minigames and/or diversions are optional. What constitutes pointlessness, anyhow?

I'm not bringing this up to be a pedant - all I want to stress is that any sort of mechanical how-to on creative work is inherently limited (and limiting.) Successful examples of any art form demonstrate knowledge of the prescriptive rules for the given art form, but they almost invariably break some of those rules, as well. That's what I was aiming for with the authenticity spiel: that creative vision really needs to trump all other concerns in the end. I'm wary of advice that could be steering people away from the game they want to make and more toward what their bourgeois audience wants with their burger and fries ;)

Of course, if we're talking about someone who is completely out of game design but insists on making the player run down two thousand more banal hallways full of the same four monsters, all so that he can get to level 99 before fighting the azure dragon king, then I find it hard to imagine that this could ever be part of any real "vision." If that's what you were aiming for with "pointless," then we're probably talking crosswise.

What Kurt Vonnegut Can Tell You About Game Design

This is all very problematic because so many of the best RPGs are epic both in length and content. The pairing is key if the story is to be successful, but the you can't distill content epic-ness into a set of easy instructions. It's not just a matter of setting the stakes high; magical apocalypses are as common as broadswords in most RPGs. Different people want different things out of gameplay, so there's not a lot of help there. My gut also tells me that gameplay is often just a garnish, though it can be a wonderful garnish.

The key, I'd argue, is making the players care about what's going on. However you tell it, if you can tell the story passionately and authentically (no mean feat - passionate authenticity is not easy to come by) your audience will come to be invested in the story's outcome. This is pretty much true regardless of purpose or genre. Keep it real, in other words.

I guess Joseph Campbell is gonna be more help than Vonnegut in that regard.
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